With the increase in college tuition, some students are finding it hard to afford to eat. There is a rise in food pantries on college campuses, with around 50 college campuses now having one. These food pantries are used for students who have limited food choices because of money, or who simply cannot afford food at all.
This came as a surprise to freshman, Gillian Carll, who attends school at Stony Brook University in New York. She first encountered the problem just days after arriving on campus when she came across a female student sitting on bench who had nothing to eat. Carll was astonished that this young woman could not afford to eat. She gave her some food and then later volunteered at the food bank on campus.
Beth McGuire-Fredericks, who is an assistant direct for housing at Stony Brook and also a co-founder of the food pantry, referred to the general idea that if you go to college you are a “have” not a “have-not” which can lead to some surprise upon learning that there are students going hungry. One may wonder how a student can afford college, but not be able to afford food, and why food pantries on college campuses are becoming a necessity. The main reason behind this is the growing cost of college tuition.
Public college tuition has risen 27 percent over the past five years, with private school tuition rising 14 percent in the same amount of time. Students have to pay more than just tuition; books and housing must be factored in as well. The majority of students who are attending college at least half time are not eligible for food stamps.
The food pantries on college campuses are hoping to help hungry students. They offer food to students who simply cannot afford to eat, as well as to students who can only afford limited options such as noodles and pizza. The food pantry on the Stony Brook campus is open two days a week. The first semester the pantry handed out over 500 bags of food. The food being distributed includes things like fruit, pasta, breakfast bars, and vegetables. There were students who would only take a few things and give the rest back, saying that they just needed some help for the next day or so.
Students at Stony Brook and other college campuses also depend on college events where food is provided, such as free pizza. The Director of Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Richard Vedder, blames rising tuition for the need for food pantries. Vedder has held the position for some time that a college tuition now outweighs the worth of a college degree. He expressed his frustration at the congratulatory tone some colleges were taking with initiating food banks, stating that these would not be necessary if tuition was not so high.
Food pantries are gaining support on college campuses. The pantry at Stony Brook has received an overwhelming number of donations. They even had to stop accepting donations at one point because they simply did not have the space. One food drive alone, put on by student varsity athletes, brought in over 100 pounds of food. Many organizations at Stony Brook have asked the food pantry volunteers to let them know when they need more donations and that they are ready to help.
By Ashley Campbell